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Minimum Wage: We Won’t Shift Ground On N615,000 Demand, Says Labour

Posted by Samuel on Sun 19th May, 2024 -

The unions had on Wednesday dumped the minimum wage negotiation after the Federal Government offered to pay N48,000, a figure far below the N615,00 the unions were demanding as the new national minimum wage.

Minimum wage

The PUNCH reports that Organised Labour, the body which comprises the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, has reiterated that it will not accept the N48,000 minimum wage offer proposed by the Federal Government.

The organised private sector had proposed an initial offer of N54,000 as a monthly living wage.

The unions had on Wednesday dumped the minimum wage negotiation after the Federal Government offered to pay N48,000, a figure far below the N615,00 the unions were demanding as the new national minimum wage.

After abandoning the session, the furious labour leaders in  an emergency press conference vented their displeasure with the offer, stating that it was “an insult to the sensibilities of Nigerian workers”.

This was the second time in two weeks that the negotiation had run into trouble.

The last session, held on April 29, was deadlocked after organised labour insisted on N615,000 minimum wage.

The Federal Government disagreed with labour’s demand, stating that it was unreasonable.

The National President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, stressed that the amount was arrived at after analysing the current economic situation and the needs of an average Nigerian family of six.

He blamed the government and the OPS for the breakdown in negotiation, saying, “Despite earnest efforts to reach an equitable agreement, the less than reasonable action of the government and the organised private sector has led to a breakdown in negotiations”.

Ajaero had, in an earlier interview on the matter, said, “Living wage is such that it will, at least, keep you alive. It is not a wage that will make you poorer and poorer. It is not a wage that will make you borrow to go to work. It is not a wage that will lead you to be in the hospital every day because of malnutrition. For that living wage, we have tried to look at N615,000.

“Let me give you a breakdown of how we arrived at that figure. We have housing and accommodation of N40,000. We asked for electricity of N20,000 — of course, that was before the current tariff increase. Nobody can spend this amount currently. We have a utility that is about N10,000. We looked at kerosene and gas, that is about N25,000 to N35,000.”

Explaining further, the NLC president said, “We looked at food for a family of six. That is about N9,000 in a day. For 30 days, that is about N270,000. Look at health. With the N50,000 provided, there will be no surgery or whatever. For clothing, we looked at N20,000. For education, N50,000. I don’t know about those who tried to put their children in private schools, they will not be able to cope with this amount. We also have sanitation of N10,000.

“I think where we have another bulk of the money is transportation. This is because the workers stay on the fringes and because of the cost of petrol, which amounted to N110,000. That brought the whole living wage to N615,000, and I want anyone to subject this to further investigation and find out whether there will be any savings when you pay somebody at this rate.”

Explaining why the unions would not accept the proposals by the FG and OPS, NLC’s National Treasurer, Mr Hakeem Ambali, said the expectation of labour was cut short with the Federal Government’s N48,000 offer.

He stressed that labour would only come back to the negotiation table when the FG shifts ground and consider paying workers a ‘worthy’ wage.

He said the government must consider food inflation, electricity tariff hikes and the removal of fuel subsidy before coming up with any amount as the minimum wage.

“Our government and employers of labour must show seriousness towards prioritising workers’ welfare and better remuneration. This is because this hardship that is meted out on Nigerians was caused by the policies of the government. All other employers are already benefitting from the increase in allocation in the state and local government.

“Retailers have also increased the price of their goods. Transporters have also increased their rate. Electricity tariff has also been increased. It is only the salary that is static and something urgent must be done. Labour is of the opinion that the right thing must be done. Government must show seriousness towards resolving this issue because it is no longer easy to live in Nigeria as a worker.

“That is why Labour condemned the N48,000 suggestion. Is it meant for feeding alone? If we have a family of six and they are fed with N500 per meal, that will give us N90,000 in a month. This is not adding transport, medical bills and rent. So, the government must also come up with a reasonable minimum wage regime that will address the economic crisis in the country,”
he added.

The national treasurer also said FG had refused to engage the main issues on why the N30,000 was no longer sustainable.

He said, “It is not that someone will just tell us, ‘We will give you N100,000 or we will give you N150,0000.’ We will not accept it. There must be empirical data to support it. That is seriousness and collective bargaining.

“We are all living in Nigeria; we are not strangers. How much does it take to go to work for an average worker? How much is rent today? How much is feeding? Our conclusions must be logical.”

Reacting to the position of some experts who proposed N100,000 as a reasonable wage considering the current economic realities, Ambali said anyone who said that was not an expert.

“Those experts must be among the bourgeoisie because how can N100,000 be enough for the worker? Even treating malaria now is a problem for a Nigerian worker. By the calculation of labour, it means no one would be able to live or afford to take care of his family.

“That is why the government was unable to produce something substantial at that meeting because the issues backed by labour are backed by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. The World Bank said the poverty index is about $2 per person.

“If we have six persons in a family, that is $12 per day. If we multiply $12 by 30 days, using the current exchange rate, we know what we are talking about.

“The government must address both the issue of minimum wage and the galloping inflation rate in the country and put up social policies that would take care of the vulnerable in the society, and not look for a way to pilfer and deep their hands into contributory pension funds, which so many employers are not even paying anyway.

“We believe that the new minimum wage must be a total rework of the workers’ welfare package,”
he added.

When asked what organised labour would do if its demands on minimum wage were not met by the government, Ambali said workers might withdraw their services as they would not be able to cope.

He said, “It may not be a strike but it could be withdrawal of services. This is because if workers can no longer go to work, then they will stay at home. If workers trek to work today and trek for one week, they all will relax at home the next week because they may not be able to trek. Workers can’t continue going to work on an empty stomach. Those are the indices that will guide our engagements”.


Source: The PUNCH

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